June 2nd, 2019
The North Conway based White Mountain Swiftwater Rescue Team (WMSRT) and Mountain Rescue Service (MRS) received a 2019 Higgins and Langley Swiftwater Rescue Incident Award at the International Association of Water Rescue Professionals conference in South Bend Indiana. On December 28th, 2018 the two volunteer teams responded to a request from NH Fish and Game Conservation Officers to assist a hypothermic backpacker on the Kinsman trail, who was cut-off by rapidly rising waters on Cascade Brook. Operating at night by headlamp, members of the WMSRT established river safety coverage and ferried ropes across the Class V river with whitewater kayaks. Members of MRS set up a Tyrolean traverse rope system and transported the hiker and his gear over the raging stream. The WMSRT and MRS had trained together for this specific type of rescue in October of 2018.
The Higgins and Langley Memorial Awards in Swiftwater Rescue honor outstanding achievement in the technical discipline of swiftwater and flood rescue. These awards are not heroism awards, they recognize preparedness, teamwork, and a job performed under extreme conditions, where training is vital to the success of rescue missions, and the safety of rescue personnel. The Swiftwater Rescue Incident Award recognizes actions that clearly demonstrate outstanding skill and preparedness in swiftwater rescue.
The White Mountain Swiftwater Rescue Team offers the specialized technical skills, training, knowledge, and experience of the White Mountain whitewater paddling community to support the search, rescue, and recovery operations of federal, state, and local rescue agencies and organizations primarily on, but not limited to, the rivers of the White Mountain region; and to minimize the number of swiftwater and flood-related incidents in the White Mountain region through education, outreach, and advocacy.
The Mountain Rescue Service provides specialized technical teams comprised of world-class guides and climbers who volunteer their time and expertise in the service of hikers and climbers who need assistance, in and around the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The team is ‘on call’ 24 hours per day, all seasons, with volunteers being mobilized for a full range of incidents: complicated multi-day and nighttime searches in the depth of winter throughout the White Mountain National Forest; technical rope rescues on the region’s many rock climbing cliffs; swift water rescue assistance; and lift evacuations at area ski resorts.
More than 300 volunteers provided nearly 5,000 hours of search and rescue services in New Hampshire in 2018. When added up, the actual SAR hours, training, personal gear, travel, and certification-compliance completed by these volunteer rescuers, these volunteers contribute over $250,000 annually in sweat equity to the NH outdoor community.